From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Healthy or Over-Hyped? What Organic Really Means,” , in the February 2009  issue. Article summary: When it comes to the environment, do your purchasing decisions matter? Does the term organic really mean anything, or is it just another marketing tool used to sell products?

In accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), the USDA Secretary has the authority to establish a national organic certification program with mandatory labeling requirements for those who sell agricultural products using organic methods. Four different categories, which the USDA established for agricultural products, also apply to certified body-care products.

1. 100 percent organic: All ingredients in the product must be organically produced; product may display the USDA Organic Seal and must have the certifying agent’s name and address on the label.

2. Organic: At least 95 percent of ingredients must be organically produced. Other five percent of ingredients must comprise nonagricultural materials or agricultural products not organically produced and not commercially available in organic form, both of which are on an approved national list.

3. Made with Organic Ingredients: At least 70 percent of the ingredients must be organic, and the label can list as many as three of these ingredients. Product must have the certifying agent’s name and address on the label, but is not allowed to display the USDA Organic Seal.

4. Products with fewer than 70 percent organic ingredients may not use the term organic anywhere on the label. USDA Organic Seal and certifying agent’s information should not be on the label. All the above percentages exclude water and salt in their ingredient list.

Despite these classifications, the USDA has no jurisdiction or legal authority over the production and labeling of body-care products that do not include agricultural ingredients, and the application of the USDA label is strictly voluntary. Also, some manufacturers have self-imposed regulations for production and labeling that may or may not comply with the standards set by the USDA.

Massage therapists need to read labels carefully in order to ensure they are purchasing truly organic products for their practices.

Phyllis Hanlon